Tim Burchett gets my vote for Congress in the Republican Primary on Aug. 2. That’s based on his record, both as Knox County mayor and as a state legislator. Tim reminds me most of Ronald Reagan. Both had a similar, well-defined political philosophy, but both could think and act creatively when the situation required.
Do I agree with everything Burchett’s done in office? No. Do I like his hard-right campaign literature? No. But here’s what I do like:
- Burchett’s linchpin as mayor was to reduce debt. Early on he set an ambitious goal to reduce the county’s debt by $100 million. And he did reduce debt, by $45 million. After building a much-needed, new elementary school at Carter by selling county assets, he perceived a need for new middle schools at Gibbs and Hardin Valley. In fact, ribbon-cuttings for those schools are today – Gibbs at 10 a.m. and Hardin Valley at 2 p.m. Burchett borrowed about $60 million for those schools. Had he deferred construction until the next mayor’s term, he would have hit his debt reduction goal. Instead, Burchett reacted to community support for those three schools.
- After shoe-horning the previous superintendent and school board into a deal that required them to “live on revenue growth” instead of asking for a budget that might require a local tax increase, Burchett then stepped in after Superintendent Bob Thomas proposed cuts to Project GRAD, magnet programs and the gifted and talented offerings to balance his budget. After massive crowds turned out at school board meetings, Burchett came through with $1.3 million from the county’s surplus to fund the three programs for one year at current levels. Again, he listened to the citizens.
- The budget for Parks & Rec is dismal, only $50,000 per year in previous budgets for capital improvements. But the county charter allows the mayor to spend up to $10,000 on discretionary projects. Burchett came through with $2,500 to help Enhance Powell get plans drawn to improve/expand Powell Station Park. The community took it from there, using private donations and inmate labor to build the park which hosted some 2,000 folks for a Fourth of July picnic just last week. I’m familiar with this project, but I’ll bet there are similar stories around the county.
The point is this. Tim Burchett is not a big spender, not at all. But he listens to the people he represents and tries to help. And after eight years as county mayor, Burchett has built three new schools and reduced debt by $45 million without increasing property, sales or wheel tax. He’s been flexible in response to community needs. He’s not about glitz and glory – just hard work and transparency. Tim’s strength is relationships. He’ll do a great job in Washington. Let’s give him a chance.
Early voting starts July 13 and the primary election is Aug. 2.